President's Corner: October 2016
Old Dominion enjoyed a successful Homecoming last month, and not just because we beat UTSA. The campus was alive with a strong sense of spirit throughout the weekend.
For me, one of the highlights was the Alumni Honors Dinner, where we recognized half a dozen graduates who have made impressive contributions in their fields and communities.
I want to share their stories and accomplishments with you to highlight the strength and breadth of our alumni:
Dori Roberts received the Outstanding Achievement Award. A former teacher, she started the company Engineering for Kids, which provides entertaining afterschool programs and parties that introduce children to STEM. Her company, which has been featured in Forbes and Fast Company, has 160 franchises in 25 countries.
Four other graduates received Distinguished Alumni Awards:
Jerry Canada, the retired CEO of Indiana Farm Bureau Insurance, promoted charitable giving to more than 50 organizations, increased revenue and established a corporate partnership with the Indianapolis Colts during his tenure. The Colts' practice facility is now called the Indiana Farm Bureau Football Center.
Dr. Allan Kirk, chairman of the department of surgery at Duke University, developed a new approach to prevent the rejection of organ transplants. He also served in the Navy as a transplant surgeon, and his other research specialties include replacement of limbs after combat injuries.
Dr. Anna-Maria McGowan is a technical fellow at NASA who serves as the senior engineer for complex systems design. She has managed several large-scale projects and served in many other roles, including NATO consultant, wind tunnel test engineer, flight test leader and NASA spokesperson.
Nancy Zirkin is executive vice president and director of policy at The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights and The Leadership Conference Education Fund. She has long been active in promoting equity in education and in the workplace. President George W. Bush appointed her to the board of directors of the United States Institute of Peace.
Ron Ripley, president of Ripley Heatwole Co., a statewide real estate development and management company, received the Alumni Service Award. Mr. Ripley has been active in several civic causes, and I'm happy to note that Old Dominion figures prominently among them. He is the past rector of Old Dominion's Board of Visitors and a former board member of our Alumni Association.
Norfolk's past mayor, Paul Fraim, the longest-serving mayor in the city's history and a reliable supporter of the university, received the Honorary Alumni award.
And let's not forget Mayor Fraim's successor, Mayor Kenny Alexander, who served as marshal for the Homecoming parade. Mayor Alexander holds the distinction of being the first mayor in Norfolk to have graduated from Old Dominion.
We have nearly 140,000 alumni in more than 65 countries. They're not all mayors or transplant surgeons. But many, like our Homecoming honorees, have fulfilled their promise as students and are making substantial improvements in their workplaces and communities. Who knows what breakthroughs and discoveries our youngest generation of alumni will achieve in the coming decades?